EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 29, 2012

Lantigua requests $1.4 million for cars, software and roads


“Until they get new management in that office, the new software is not going to make a difference in the overall problem,” Rivera said.

Peter Blanchette, acting director of Inspectional Services, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The Building Department’s failure to report 349 building permits to the tax office over the last two years was traced to longtime inspector Lawrence Hester, who was put on paid leave Oct. 5, a few days after the failure became public.

Robert Nunes, Lawrence’s state-appointed fiscal overseer, said the city will have to write off $100,000 in taxes that should have been collected from 47 property owners in 2010, representing permits allowing $10.3 million worth of improvements and new development that was not reported.

He said the error was discovered in time to allow the city to collect the other $200,000 from 302 property owners last year, who made $23 million worth of improvements and development that were not reported.

Nunes last month called for several reforms to the way the Building Department does business, including the software system Lantigua proposed yesterday to track licenses and permits as they make their way through City Hall.

The city also has hired auditors to review department practices and audit permits it issued before 2010, which Nunes said will expose “the full extent of Lawrence’s potential losses and determine if any additional remedies are needed.”

Yesterday, Nunes said he supports the supplemental budget. He said the software upgrades will allow the city to serve residents “in a more timely, effective and accountable way (and) save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The $1.4 million supplemental budget would come on top the $246 million budget for the city and its schools and special districts for the current fiscal year that the council approved in June.

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